Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Treasure the Pleasures

As I was working out today, I listened to my Kindle read Chesterton's Orthodoxy. I have an exquisite delight in Chesterton's elevation of the importance of art and poetry. This is largely because I have not a poetic bone in my entire body, and it is important to face our weaknesses head on or else spend eternity being hamstrung by them. Of all the things Chesterton says, I think the following may be my favorite:
I could never mix in the common murmur of that rising generation against monogamy, because no restriction on sex seemed so odd and unexpected as sex itself. To be allowed, like Endymion, to make love to the moon and then to complain that Jupiter kept his own moons in a harem seemed to me (bred on fairy tales like Endymion's) a vulgar anti-climax. Keeping to one woman is a small price for so much as seeing one woman. To complain that I could only be married once was like complaining that I had only been born once. It was incommensurate with the terrible excitement of which one was talking. It showed, not an exaggerated sensibility to sex, but a curious insensibility to it. A man is a fool who complains that he cannot enter Eden by five gates at once. Polygamy is a lack of the realization of sex; it is like a man plucking five pears in mere absence of mind. The aesthetes touched the last insane limits of language in their eulogy on lovely things. The thistledown made them weep; a burnished beetle brought them to their knees. Yet their emotion never impressed me for an instant, for this reason, that it never occurred to them to pay for their pleasure in any sort of symbolic sacrifice. Men (I felt) might fast forty days for the sake of hearing a blackbird sing. Men might go through fire to find a cowslip. Yet these lovers of beauty could not even keep sober for the blackbird. They would not go through common Christian marriage by way of recompense to the cowslip. Surely one might pay for extraordinary joy in ordinary morals. Oscar Wilde said that sunsets were not valued because we could not pay for sunsets. But Oscar Wilde was wrong; we can pay for sunsets. We can pay for them by not being Oscar Wilde.
In the meantime, I have also been reading very slowly through Walker Percy's wondrous novel The Moviegoer, which I will share my thoughts on at a later date. I felt quite spoiled today, however, having earlier in the day received this reminder from Chesterton to treasure the pleasures of life in whatever small measure they may come and then to see in Percy's novel the disconnection (and hence inability to enjoy) which comes from being a consumer rather than an enjoyer of what we've been given.

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